Signs of Hormonal Imbalance in Men

Signs of Hormonal Imbalance in Men

Usually when the topic of estrogen is mentioned, men’s health is not the first thing that comes to mind. After all, estrogen is only important for women, right? It’s testosterone that men need to be concerned about.

Although it’s true that estrogen is the predominant female sex hormone, and testosterone is the predominant male sex hormone, the reality is that men and women need both hormones to function properly. The key, depending on gender, is to take care to maintain the optimal balance of estrogen and testosterone. This article explores the role estrogen plays in men’s health, signs of hormonal imbalance in men, and steps you can take today to help keep it in balance.

What are hormones?

First of all, let’s just review what hormones are in general. They are chemical messengers that are secreted from glands into the blood. The circulatory system then carries them to our organs and tissues, where they exert their primary functions. 

Testosterone and estrogen are the hormones that control sexual functions and reproductive health. However, there are several other types of hormones that control other bodily functions, such as our metabolism, digestion, growth, mood, respiration, cognitive development, and temperature control. 

When your hormones are unbalanced, many factors of your overall health can be affected without you even realizing the cause – especially because hormone imbalance symptoms in males are often overlooked.

It’s common knowledge that male hormonal changes in the 20s lead to an increased libido. Men in their 30s often accept a decrease in the sex drive they experienced in their 20s as a standard part of the aging process. However, for many men, hormonal imbalance could be the real culprit. 

The roles of estrogen and testosterone in men

It is important to note that estrogen and testosterone are not opposites of one another – the relationship is more complex than that. Testosterone, as the predominant male sex hormone, is integral to male sexual development (particularly during adolescence). It is the hormone responsible for the emergence of male characteristics like increased facial and body hair, increased muscle mass and definition, and a deepening of the voice. Testosterone is produced primarily in the testicles and is associated with key body functions, including bone density maintenance, fat metabolism and distribution, muscle mass and strength, red blood cell production, sperm production, and libido.

Estrogen is also essential for male sexual development and overall optimal male health. It, too, plays an important role in maintaining healthy function of practically every system in the body, including the neurological, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and immune systems. Men typically produce estrogen from the breakdown of testosterone by the aromatase enzyme (also known as estrogen synthase or estrogen synthetase). Aromatase is present in fat tissue, the adrenal glands, the brain, and the testicles.

How do hormones normally fluctuate with age?

As men age, testosterone levels normally begin to decrease. One study suggests testosterone levels can decline by 0.4-2.0 percent per year after age 30.1 Furthermore, as men age, there can be an increase in estrogen levels. This is a natural occurrence and shouldn’t cause concern unless estrogen levels are abnormally high or low, or if such changes cause adverse symptoms.

Normal estrogen levels in men vary with age and stages of development. Male hormonal changes in the 20s are different from those in the 30s, 40s, and older. The following tables, derived from Mayo Medical Laboratories, provide a general reference range of estrone and estradiol for males and females.2

Hormonal imbalance symptoms in males

Interestingly, the symptoms and signs of high estrogen in men are much the same as symptoms of low estrogen in males and include:

  1. Infertility
  2. Gynecomastia (enlargement of a male’s breast glandular tissue)
  3. Erectile dysfunction
  4. Low libido
  5. Low sperm count
  6. Increased fatigue
  7. Depression or anxiety
  8. Hair loss
  9. Osteoporosis

What causes hormonal imbalance in males?

Hypogonadism. Given the connection between testosterone and estrogen, it should be no surprise that one of the primary causes of estrogen imbalance is low testosterone. And one of the main causes of low testosterone in men is hypogonadism, a condition where the testicles do not produce sufficient testosterone, which in turn can lead to hormonal imbalance in men in the production and levels of estrogen and other hormones. This can result in various symptom presentations.

There are essentially two types of male hypogonadism: primary and secondary.

  1. Primary – indicates the issue lies in the testicles. There is insufficient production of testosterone by the testes.
  2. Secondary – indicates the issues originate in the part of the brain (specifically the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland) that signals the testicles to produce testosterone. Normally, the hypothalamus produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which signals the pituitary gland to make follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Luteinizing hormone then signals the testes to produce testosterone.3

Primary or secondary hypogonadism can be caused by a congenital trait, or by something that is acquired, such as an injury or an infection, or as part of the natural process of aging. It is possible for both types to occur simultaneously.1,3

Other causes of estrogen imbalance in men include:

  • Obesity or weight gain
  • Stress
  • Medication (antibiotics, antipsychotics)

Risks of estrogen imbalance in men

Some of the most serious aspects of hormonal imbalance in men come not from the symptoms themselves but what they can lead to if left untreated. Among these are increased risk for:

  • Diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Breast cancer
  • Postate cancer

Male hormonal imbalance treatment

There are several ways to manage hormonal imbalance in men, including medications, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, or a combination of the above.

Medication – In cases of increased estrogen, a group of medications known as “aromatase inhibitors” are a possible option. These drugs keep aromatase from converting androgen hormones into estrogen, thereby reducing estrogen levels.

Testosterone replacement therapy can help with overall estrogen balance by improving the ratio of testosterone to estrogen.

Diet and lifestyle – Practical diet and lifestyle changes for men can help balance estrogen levels:

  1. Avoid foods high in saturated fats.
  2. Avoid meat products from animals that have been treated with synthetic hormones.
  3. Eat cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and daikon radish) because they contain phytochemicals that increase estrogen metabolism.
  4. Eat shiitake and portobello mushrooms because they reduce aromatase naturally.
  5. Drink green tea, which is rich in polyphenol antioxidants. Polyphenols are able to bind to estrogen receptors α (ERα) and β (ERβ) and potentially mimic or inhibit the action of endogenous estrogens – even at low concentrations.4
  6. Avoid plastic wraps or plastic containers to store your food – certain plastics have chemicals that can be absorbed into the food and act like estrogens in the body.
  7. Avoid personal hygiene products (shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, and lotions) that contain parabens because parabens act like exogenous estrogens when absorbed in the body.
  8. Stay physically active and fit to help maintain healthy estrogen balance. Incorporate daily physical activity into your routine and be consistent. Consider a mix of cardio and weight training. Even a simple 30-minute workout daily is a good starting point from which to build.

Best nutrients to support hormonal imbalances

Diindolylmethane (DIM): DIM is a compound derived from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. DIM supports healthy estrogen metabolism by favoring the production of a less-reactive (healthier) form of estrogen called 2-hydroxyestrone instead of the more reactive (less healthy) 16α-hydroxyestrone.* An elevated 16α-hydroxyestrone level in males has been linked to gynecomastia, decreased libido, and prostate gland problems. In addition, DIM can inhibit aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen.*5

Sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS): Another beneficial compound from cruciferous vegetables is sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS). Broccoli seeds and sprouts are rich in SGS (also known as glucoraphanin). When orally consumed, SGS reacts with the healthy microflora in the gut to produce its active form, sulforaphane, which is a potent natural inducer of phase 2 detoxification enzymes.*6,7 During phase 2 detoxification, the liver uses one of two key enzymatic pathways to transform potentially toxic substances – like drugs, chemicals, and excess or exogenous estrogens – into less toxic substances that the body can excrete more readily. This allows SGS to play a chemoprotective role in the body, supporting the inhibition of abnormal cell cycle progression and inducing apoptosis (cell death) of abnormal cells.*8-10 SGS also acts as a long-lasting, indirect antioxidant, activating the body’s antioxidative processes to protect healthy cells from free-radical damage.*11-13 

Pomegranate extract: Pomegranate extract is a rich source of phytoestrogens – plant compounds that are structurally similar to estrogens, like estradiol. Phytoestrogens compete with estradiol for binding to estrogen receptors, thus reducing their potentially harmful effect.*14 Pomegranate is also rich in polyphenols, particularly ellagitannins. Ellagitannins have been shown to inhibit aromatase activity, thus suppressing estrogen production.*15 A review of biologically active compounds in pomegranate found that pomegranate extract can act as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM).*14

Thorne’s Hormone Advantage combines diindolylmethane (DIM), pomegranate extract, and sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS; from broccoli seed extract) to support balanced hormone health by helping the body metabolize and detoxify excess estrogen.*

Not Just for Women!

Although the body’s process to balance and detoxify estrogen is similar in both men and women, the benefits are very different. 

Wellness Benefits for Men:

  • Enhances the level of testosterone*
  • Supports prostate health*
  • Promotes an optimal ratio of estrogen to testosterone*
  • Men with excess estrogen can develop enlarged breast tissue or experience less than ideal erectile function. Hormone Advantage assists with reduction of estrogen receptor activation in areas of high receptor density, such as in breast and erectile tissue*
  • Reducing excess estrogen aids in physical fitness, energy, and weight management*


When to see a health-care practitioner

Looking for guidance on how to balance hormones? males who notice any abnormal symptoms that could be related to hormone imbalances should consult their health-care professional. Most conditions associated with hormonal imbalance in men can be treated once the imbalance is identified. 


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  14. Sreekumar S, Sithul H, Muraleedharan P, et al. Pomegranate fruit as a rich source of biologically active compounds. Biomed Res Int 2014;2014:686921. 
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